“After the Russian revolution turns her world topsy-turvy, Anna, a young Russian Countess, has no choice but to flee to England. Penniless, Anna hides her aristocratic background and takes a job as servant in the household of the esteemed Westerholme family, armed only with an outdated housekeeping manual and sheer determination.
Desperate to keep her past a secret, Anna is nearly overwhelmed by her new duties—not to mention her instant attraction to Rupert, the handsome Earl of Westerholme. To make matters worse, Rupert appears to be falling for her as well. As their attraction grows stronger, Anna finds it more and more difficult to keep her most dearly held secrets from unraveling. And then there’s the small matter of Rupert’s beautiful and nasty fiancée.” via Goodreads
When this book came into my view I was in high school. I remember seeing a friend read it and having her recommend it to me. Nothing ever came of it. When it came time to reassess my wishlist for Round 6 of OTSP Secret Sister, this came up as a suggestion. I figured why not add it, I’d like to read it. When I opened my February box, what to my surprise: there’s Countess Below Stairs! This story fits my style of reading. It’s portrayed as a young adult historical romance and it solidly fits that description.
Anna presented an interesting puzzle. She escaped from Russia to England in a time of great trouble and turmoil. She had faced the deaths of numerous relatives, including her father, and the uncertainty of the survival of others. Yet, through all of it she held an optimistic innocence that I found charming. There were a few points where I didn’t find it realistic but her character still charmed me and kept me reading.
When faced with the hard decision of relying on others or taking life into her own hands and getting a job, she doesn’t take it easy. She jumps into the job of a housemaid with enthusiasm unmatched by many. Coming into this story with a great love of Downton Abbey, it was a familiar world below stairs with the housemaids, ladies maids, housekeeper and butler. Anna made short work of making friends with those in the house. My favorite relationship to see grow was that between Anna and Uncle Sebastien, Rupert’s Great Uncle. Their shared love of music was magical to watch.
“And so they played some of the world’s loveliest piano music – the exiled homesick girl, the humiliated, tired old man. Not properly. Better than that.”
I wish the story had more about the “prince charming.” He was rather one dimensional; despite that, Rupert, Earl of Westerholme’s love for his family shone through. One of my favorite characters was the Honorable Olive, younger sister of Rupert’s best friend. She was a little spitfire who wasn’t going to let the world get her down, despite all the medical challenges she’d faced in her short life. The whole community’s love for the Honorable Olive was beautiful and wonderful to read about.
Throughout the story Anna talks of her father. My favorite quote from him was
“When you’re sad, my Little Star, go out of doors. It’s always better underneath the open sky.”
This holds true to all moments in life. When you need a little joy take a step outside to the fresh air.
Overall I loved this book and would highly recommend it to anyone who likes historical fiction and YA.